Feel like your latest Bend utility bill is higher than it should be? It’s not just you.
Higher utility rates and recalculated winter water usage averages used to figure sewer bills both took effect in July. As fall begins and Bend residents water their lawns and shrubs less, these changes to base charges become more obvious.
Bend doesn’t track customer complaints about utility bills, said Brooks Slyter, the city’s assistant finance director, but the city does field more calls each fall.
“Every year when rates change and we do that winter quarter average, the call volume goes up,” she said.
Bend property owners, and residents who live outside of city limits but receive utilities through the city, receive a monthly bill with water, sewer and storm sewer charges.
Water rates increased 2 percent this year, and sewer and storm sewer rates both increased by 3 percent, Slyter said. Bills vary depending on where users live and how much water they use.
“It depends on what size of meter you have and whether you’re in or out of city limits,” Slyter said.
For water, most residential Bend customers pay a base rate of $22.91 and non-Bend customers pay $34.37. They then pay more — $1.90 for Bend residents and $2.85 for nonresidents — for every 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons, of water they use.
Commercial customers who have larger water meters pay higher rates.
Sewer usage isn’t metered, so the city bases sewer rates on how much water residents use during winter months, working off the assumption that water used during the winter will run down drains inside a house instead of soaking into the ground outside. This winter quarter average is based on water usage during December, January and February and is recalculated each year — so if residents chose to deal with the snow by taking a lot more hot showers last winter, they’ll see the effects on their sewer bill until June of 2018.
Base sewer charges are $34.55 for single-family homes and $13.65 per unit in a multi-family building. Customers then pay $3.62 per 100 cubic feet of the winter quarter average water use.
Bend residents who believe their sewer bills were incorrectly calculated can appeal by calling 541-388-5515 or by filling out a form on the city’s website. There isn’t a formal appeal process for customers who think their water bills are incorrect, but bills affected by leaks can be reduced.
How much those bills are reduced depends on where the leak is. If it appears on the city’s side of the water meter, customers won’t pay for any more water than they used during the same month last year, but if it’s on the customer’s side, his or her account will be credited up for up to half of the excess water.
The third portion of Bend utility bills, storm water, is based on how much impervious, or nonabsorbent, surface, is at the property. These surfaces include roofs, driveways, patios and pavement, and typical single-family homes have about 3,800 square feet of such surfaces. Customers pay $5.30 per 3,800 square feet of impervious surface.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160; firstname.lastname@example.org